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Two weeks in retail - 23rd October

The autumn leaves are falling thick and fast now and with a promised Indian summer for this week yet to materialise, and half term imminent shoppers are starting to more than ever think ahead to the winter.

Things certainly remain tough in the market.

At the luxury end Mulberry, which bizarrely has previously done well during the recession as shoppers polarised their shopping habits by either buying value or investing in quality, has issued a profit warning after a slowdown in wholesale revenues for the six months to the end of September. It followed a similar warning from Burberry last month. However in the UK retail sales were up 10% for the period for Mulberry.

Other retailers are continuing to struggle according to reports in the past few days which suggested that Argos was to double its store closure programme over the next five years as it continues to realign its store portfolio to meet the demands of the new online shopper. Unconfirmed reports from the Financial Times suggested the retailer would now close up to 100 stores over the period.

Meanwhile clothing retailer Jacques Vert has also wielded the axe with plans to slim down its 11 label portfolio from the New Year with plus size brand Ann Harvey believed to be one of those for the chop. It followed news that the retailer’s chief executive Paul Allen is to step down.

However other retailers are attempting to fit gaps in the market. Sports retailer JD Sports is planning a new fascia JD Pro, which is to open on Bow Lane in the City of London, aimed at the sports performance market.

At Boots the retailer has signed up celebrity chef Jamie Oliver for a range of Jamie Does Lunch products at 100 prime commuter sited stores across the UK. The range launched last week

And John Lewis is to begin selling holidays following a partnership with Kuoni that will see it host concessions at four stores over the next few weeks and more likely to open later on. It follows the success of the retailer’s travel insurance option which will now be offered by Kuoni.

With Halloween next week coinciding with half term for many retailers will be hoping parents make the most of the period and repeat the £300 million of sales achieved in the UK last year. Asda claims its own Halloween sales have grown 22% in the last five years and it expects to notch up a further 3.3% increase in sales this year.

Certainly online retail body IMRG is confident confidence is finally picking up. In its September IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index figures, released in the last fortnight, it said £6.4 billion was spent online last month – a year on year growth of 16% and a growth of 15% forecast for the fourth quarter and the year as a whole now expected to see an increased growth of 14%.

The figures were 11% up on August.

Sales via mobile however were up at 312% year on year. IMRG said the figures –which include a particularly poignant year on year growth of 54% in the gifts sector – showed that shoppers are already thinking and shopping for Christmas.

The BRC also revealed a positive picture for September in its BRC-KPMG Sales Monitor after reporting UK retail sales up by 1.5% on a like for like basis against September last year – driven largely by clothing and footwear.

The Office of National Statistics also had good news to share – saying the amount of goods bought in September compared to the same month last year was up 2.5% and by 3.2% by value. The volume of sales was up 0.6% on August and the amount spent up 1.1%.


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